A new opinion poll has shown that Czechs are likely to approve membership of the European Union by a strong margin in next month's referendum. The weekly survey, conducted by the TNS Factum agency, forecast that 83 percent of those who intended to participate in the referendum would vote in favour, up from 76 percent a week ago and the highest figure since the polls started in February. The Czech Republic hopes to become a member of the EU in May of next year.
The Czech ice-hockey squad face Canada on Friday evening in the semi-final of the world championships in Finland. The Czechs went through to the semis after defeating traditional rivals Russia 3-0 on Wednesday evening in their quarter final match. NHL goal scoring champion Milan Hejduk led the scoring for the Czechs, world champions in three of the last four years.
People in the Czech Republic have been marking the 58th anniversary of liberation from the Nazis. Ceremonies were held across the country. In the town of Plzen in West Bohemia a procession of army vehicles drove through the city centre, to mark the arrival in May 1945 of U.S. troops led by General Patton. Meanwhile in the capital Prague, politicians and ordinary people remembered the 3,000 soldiers and civilians who died in the popular uprising, one of the last battles of the Second World War. A special ceremony was held outside the Czech Radio building, which played a crucial role in the uprising.
A new poll shows that majority of Czechs would favour referendum if it came to the placement of US troops on Czech soil; the poll, conducted by the Stem agency has revealed that even the majority of Czech politicians would not be against a plebiscite on the issue, with the greatest resistance to the idea coming from the Communist Party. According to the survey one third of the public would vote in favour of US basing troops in the Czech Republic, while 43 percent would vote against.
A second test by Brno hospital officials to determine whether a man who died of pneumonia over the weekend may have been infected with SARS - has failed to uncover any evidence of the deadly virus. The victim had been suspected of having the disease, after having recently travelled to the Czech Republic from Southeast Asia; he died in hospital on Saturday. An autopsy was first conducted to determine whether the man suffered from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which has swept Asia and Canada, but so far has not been detected in the Czech Republic. In recent weeks Czech hospitals in the country's main cities have quarantined and examined some 26 people for the disease. None have tested positive so far.
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has indicated he wants the National Security Office to increase the speed of vetting of candidates become members of the permanent Czech mission to the European Union. On Wednesday he requested the government give this task to the head of the National Security Office Tomas Kadlec. In Mr Svoboda's view vetting is clearly necessary with regards to the activities of diplomatic and non-diplomatic personnel, but after the government meeting on Wednesday he expressed dismay that 530 cases at the Foreign Ministry remain incomplete, 120 of those requests dating back to1999. Mr Svoboda wants the government to set specific deadlines for the vetting process. He stressed the importance of the procedure for completing the European agenda, as well as for the setting of Czech representation in Brussels.
The first members of the Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit in the Gulf are expected to fly home on Wednesday, together with Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, who has been touring the region. The 30-member group has been in Kuwait since last September. Meanwhile, all members of the contingent, Czechs and Slovaks, will return home by early June. An army deputy chief of staff revealed that only logistical support for the 7th field hospital would remain at the US base at Camp Doha, while no Slovak troops were foreseen as working with the Czech field hospital. The Czech part of the anti-chemical unit, commanded by Dusan Lupuljev, consists of 400 soldiers, while Slovakia has 70 men and women in the Gulf. So far they have helped provide humanitarian aid in southern Iraq, including the distribution of water.
The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has expressed support for a common European defense and foreign policy. Addressing an audience at the Johan Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt Mr. Spidla said that while Europe had become an economic power, foreign policy and defense wise it was a midget. A European defense force should help to restore balance within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Czech Prime Minister said. He appealed for European unity pointing out that in the present day no European country was in a position to defend its interests alone.
Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik has visited the city of Basra in
southern Iraq where work is underway on the setting up of a Czech field
hospital. The team of Czech doctors and nurses are already working in
makeshift conditions, providing medical care to several hundred
patients a day. The hospital should be fully operational by mid May.
Speaking to journalists later the minister said he was shocked by the
plight of the locals and proud of the work of the Czech field hospital
team. "They are professionals of which the Czech Republic can be truly
proud" the minister said.
Wednesday is expected to bring partly cloudy to overcast skies with rain in the north-western and eastern parts of the Czech Republic. Day temperatures between 21 and 28 degrees Celsius.